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'Marvel's Agents of SHIELD' Has Finally Transformed Into the Show We Wanted It To Be

By Dustin Rowles | TV Reviews | April 9, 2014 | Comments ()


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Last night’s episode of Agents of SHIELD was easily the best episode of its freshman season, although this has to be the first time ever that a television show has completely spoiled the entire plot of a blockbuster film only five days after its release. I suspect that Marvel assumed that anyone who still watched Agents of SHIELD must have been a big enough fan of the Marvel universe to have seen Captain America: Winter Soldier on opening weekend. But if you didn’t — if you were away on business, if you had a school or family event that prevented you from catching the film — then you should know that Agents of SHIELD gave much of plot away, including (SPOILERS, obviously) the fact that Nick Fury had died, that HYDRA had taken over SHIELD and destroyed it from the inside, and that Captain America saved the world from deadly helicarriers.

But no big deal, those were only the three major plot points in Captain America: Winter Soldier, and I’m sure that Fury’s resurrection will be taken up in next week’s episode.

Still, for those who had seen Cap’s movie over the weekend, the synergy between the television series and the Marvel cinematic universe finally paid off in a huge way. Last night’s SHIELD weaved all the plot turns in Captain America into the episode while still managing to spring several twists and surprises on us along the way.

The series had already been improving steadily, basically since Bill Paxton arrived on the scene, and it’s notable that last night’s most successful episode gave most of the screentime to its best actors: Clark Gregg, Bill Paxton, Ming Na Wen, and Saffron Burrows, who I would argue did the most lifting in the episode as Agent Victoria Hand, because our sympathies with that character shifted so frequently during the episode. She went from who we thought was the Clairvoyant trying to take down SHIELD, to the enemy of Agent Coulson (who she believed was the Clairvoyant), and finally into a crumpled, bloody pile on the floor after it was revealed that John Garrett was the Clairvoyant and TADA Agent Grant Ward was his accomplice inside HYDRA. Grant put three in her chest, and we bid farewell to Agent Hand.

It was an impressive series of twists, and it worked in part because SHIELD has been such a generic show for so long that many of us only expected the obvious. Granted, I think most of us figured out that Paxton was not who he claimed to be before it was actually revealed, but it didn’t dawn on me until Grant Ward was inside that cell standing next to Agent Hand that he could be HYDRA. That sequence got a serious slow clap out of me.

Who knew Ward even had that kind of duplicitousness in him? Suddenly, the least interesting character in the series is one of the best characters, and it’ll be interesting to see how that plays out over the final five episodes. Hopefully, not in a way that suggests he’s being temporarily brainwashed, but in a way that sees Grant Ward own the villainous role and go down with it.

The rest of SHIELD — Skye, Fitz, Simmons — mostly played supporting roles, and that’s really what suits them best. This was a Big Boy episode, and the veteran actors — and some fancy writing from Maurissa Tancharoen and the Whedon brothers — finally showed what SHIELD is capable of, although without the more direct links to the Marvel universe, it’s hard to know whether the series will be able to maintain the success it achieved last night.

But one thing is for certain: Agents of SHIELD will play a central role in advancing the overall narrative of the Marvel Universe, so at the very least, we have a stake in the series now. Good or bad, if we want to know what happens in between Captain America: Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, it will probably behoove us to continue watching SHIELD.




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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Yocean

    Saw the episode a week late (had to wait till I could Warch Cap. America 2) and I'm pretty convinced my favorite character Simmons is an another Hydra. Two reasons. 1) her "I'm getting better" at lying comment. 2) when Hand tested her and Triplette, it was Triplette that made the move and Hand revealed it was a test before Simmons had answered.

    And also, she is Caucasian and Hydra is a Nazi organization ( yes, Sitwell's actor is Latino but the character in comics is very blond).

  • puppetDoug

    Absolutely the best episode so far. I think Ward is absolutely evil and I hope he stays that way. I am currently worried he was Winter Soldier brainwashed and that the Lorelei storyline foreshadows it, but the more I think about it the more I think Lorelei would have seen he was already brainwashed like she could tell he was into Skye, and I've heard Paxton's sidekick is a series regular now. I think he replaces Ward on the team and simultaneously adds diversity. I do hope we get time with Mental Ward, because his blandness translated into psychopath so fantastically in those last seconds where he looked at the camera.

  • Irina

    After Skye kissed Ward, saying it's because he might die, I SO wanted him to say "Screw this, I'm gonna live!"
    #Whedon nostalgia

  • Ben

    Holy fuck was that eppisode good. I swear if they pull a ward fake out thing i'm gonna be cut. I want him to be a straight up villian from now on. I really don't want to see him redeem himself and rejoin the team or anything.

  • Ben

    been enjoying the show for a while now, nothing amazing but fun. Now I'm super hyped to get home and watch it.

  • The most important development from last night's show might have been used as a throwaway during the episode. When you pair Cap 2's first post credits scene where HYDRA is gathering artifacts, special people and other mystic chotchkies with Agent Benedict Arnold's talking about the inventory that Coulson's team has acquired. And who ends up with the hard drive with all the team's secrets? Agent BA

  • Marc Greene

    I'm hoping that Ward is just straight up HYDRA instead of being brainwashed or working as a double agent. Unfortunately, that lack of "Hail Hydra" at the end leaves me worried...

  • foolsage

    I think he's a straight-up villain. He shot the faux-voyant to try to cover up for his real boss. He effectively stole the hard drive with all of Coulson's team's collected secrets, as Dutch noted. He murdered the highest-ranking SHIELD agent left besides Coulson (leaving the highest-ranking officer as someone who's well known by the enemy).

    I'd have a hard time reconciling any one of those acts with a triple-agent storyline, frankly. OK, some of it could be faked, e.g. maybe Agent Hand isn't really dead, or maybe the hard drive will be returned. Straight up murdering some old quadraplegic guy though? I don't see how they spin that as anything but villainous.

    Also, I really hope that Ward will try to manipulate Skye, and that he knows she's an 084. If theirs is just a simple romance in any sense, I'll be very disappointed.

  • Meljean

    So now she's Buffy and he's Angel.

  • foolsage

    I hope not. I don't want to see star-crossed lovers there either. I'd prefer to learn that he's a real bastard and will use every advantage he can, and that ultimately, his feelings for her will come a distant second to his loyalty to HYDRA. That would frankly be a more interesting story to me, if done well, than yet another triple-cross/redemption for the endgame.

  • rio

    I think he might be conflicted now (it better not be because of Skye sweet sweet lips, or i will puke) but he's a straight up Hydra agent, it was confirmed yesterday night by an interview with the producers and this morning by the actor, which is awesome, they can only play the brainwashed card so many times and I doubt he would take down one of the only high ranking shield agents left just to keep a cover.

  • Steve Ward

    - Explained why this ragtag team even exists in the otherwise "yay for rules and regulations" SHIELD.
    - Got the Clairvoyant thing out of the way with the best possible resolution.
    - Developed actual stakes for things moving forward.
    - Somehow made Agent Ward really, really interesting. Yeah, I expect him to switch back somehow (possibly complete with Hand having been wearing a vest), rather than my preferred outcome of having Deathlok replace him on the team redemption quest style. But fuck it, for the time being, the least interesting character on the show is now damn near the most interesting.

    I thought Cap 2 was "good" when I saw it. But if it really managed to make Agents watchable in the long term, that movie was a masterpiece.

    Man, it must have sucked being Brett Dalton (Ward) for however long it's been between him finding out that he's HYDRA and this airing. I wonder how many times he had to tell friends "no, I swear, things happen. Things! I swear!"

  • Three_nineteen

    I knew Ward was HYDRA when he said he wanted to go with Hand to lock up Garret. I don't think he's pretending to be HYDRA for SHIELD or Coulson, because I don't think they would sanction murdering Hand to keep his cover. I'm afraid what they want to do is use Ward's love for Skye to turn him back from HYDRA.

  • rio

    see, love for Coulson? for the team? I'd by that, but you are right, they better turn this not lovely dovey.
    Though I doubt they will, I mean we've been dreading the all Skye-Ward are meant to each other bullshit since the first episode and when you think they are going exactly there with that kiss, surprise! he's the fucking mole! That was delightful.

  • Lea Thrace

    I tuned in because nothing else of interest to me was on. Hot dang I was glad I did. As ticked of as I sort of was at the spoilers, it was still worth it. I just hope they can hold on to their momentum.

    My theory is that Ward is not really Hydra but is instead seizing an opportunity to infiltrate. His fight scene was awesome but nothing compared to the Coulson/Calvary scene. Ming Na was just beyond. And she did it all in handcuffs!

    Can we get rid of Simmons already? Let's keep Fitz though. He's grown on me like bad fungus. His little/big boy stance while standing up to Garrett was so cute.

  • Guest

    Did he use ich luge bullets on Hand then?

  • Lea Thrace

    I thought about that but I think I saw blood when they cut to her body on the plane floor. Icers dont draw blood right?

  • deathandthestrawberry

    Yep. Definitely an improvement. I'm one of those people who watched Shield for the first time in weeks out of curiosity to see how they were going to work Hydra into the plot. Ward was always a big old nothing of a character. In fact, he and Skye were one of the reasons why I tuned out (although I think Skye could potentially be a more interesting character, but the actress is super bland and annoying).

    My fear is that Ward's duplicity is a fake out and he will have been working for Shield all along. If that happens I'm probably going to give up the show for good.

  • Does that mean Ward used ich luge bullets on Hand?

  • kbenton

    slowclap.gif for you, Sir or Madam.

  • It's sir. And thank the heavens someone remembers Heathers

  • Miss Jane

    Ok, I'm going to give this series another try. So what's the least amount of episodes I should go back to get into the story? Any help is appreciated.

  • Houston Shearon

    Maybe start around ep 10 or 11. There are crumbs throughout, but it starts picking up a bit around then.

  • Houston Shearon

    If this episode is a change in tone, tension, and quality... good things are ahead. Wards fighting was significantly better too. That was a brutal fight scene.

  • lowercase_ryan

    I loved this shit. Well done SHIELD.

  • Tracer Bullet

    The timeline of the show is kind of confusing compared to the movie. In seemed that Fury's "death" took place about a week before HYDRA made it's move (and it had to be at least that long before a guy with Fury's injuries could even stand, let alone walk around like a badass and fly a helicopter) while the show made it seem like the attack on Fury was HYDRA's coming out party.

    It's probably being nitpicky to say that I wanted Triplette to join Coulson's team. And it's ridiculous that 1) Hand devoted only two guards to transport the most dangerous enemy in SHIELD history, 2) even though she is possibly the highest ranking SHIELD officer still extant, Hand took time out from an escalating crisis to transport Garrett and 3) she did it while unharmed.

    It's great they finally gave Agent Block Ramjaw something to do. I guess we can take his wooden presence as "emotionally-vacuous sociopath" rather than just "dull cipher."

  • This was the first episode of Agents of SHIELD that I've been excited for since the premiere and it did not disappoint.

    I know feel as if there are actual *stakes* to the challenges the team faces instead of everyone being the smartest person in the room in every situation at any given time.

  • idiosynchronic

    "Bullshit", I exclaimed on reading the headline.

    It suddenly sprinted forward like someone stuck a cattle prod in its ass, but it remains to be seen if doesn't return to an awkward mumbling teenage shuffle in 50 yards.

  • Afferbeck

    I'm wondering whether Ward is truly an evil Hydra-hailing henchman, or whether his faith in the surviving members of Shield is not high enough he thinks simply locking up the Clairvoyant will be enough to stop Hydra.

    Maybe offing Hand and co and showing his allegiance to Garrett will let him work alongside him and sneakily take down all his evil efforts, which he'd have no way of knowing about if he was flying blind. Still, locking him up/executing him and working under Hand and Coulson seems like the safer and less insane option. And Garrett's reaction after Ward's shootings was more along the lines of 'I love it when a plan comes together' as opposed to 'oh cool, he's on board'. So maybe he is truly evil!

  • The cynical side of me wonders if deeply integrating the narrative into the larger Marvel Universe is a way to ensure the show stays on the air for quite some time.

  • That's been the stated purpose of the show all along. The problem has been that Thor 2 was a little too cosmic for AoS's scope and Marvel didn't want any Hydra hints dropped until Cap 2. The result was 15 or so episodes of pointless team building exercises and water treading.

  • Michelle

    It's interesting that they didn't bring this out as a mid-season show; they could've easily aired at least 10 episodes by now and it might've made some of the lesser episodes.. better.

  • cruzzercruz

    That's exactly it. It's interesting how, looking back, it actually makes sense that the show was meandering along rather than doing any kind of serious plot progression. The show was pitched after Feige already knew the story for The Winter Soldier, and told them flat out that they weren't changing it. They've had to essentially sit on their hands until 3/4 through season one for a forced reboot. Maybe now the show can move forward with its characters in places that are remotely interesting.

  • Won't hurt.

    Put it this way: I've not seen many episodes of the show past the first few (when it was CW Fest). Now I have a reason to catch up.

  • I haven't seen a single episode. The previews and subsequent reviews from people I trust made it seem like amateur hour.

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